GUN MACHINE: A New Era of Ellis
Gun Machine by Warren Ellis
Review by Chris Mattix
For those of us who grew up reading comic books, Warren Ellis represents a mighty force and a truly original voice. His oddball imagination transformed series like Planetary and Transmetropolitan into works of genius and are representative of the transcendent power of graphic storytelling. He is the kind of writer who always finds a way to shock even the most seasoned reader of the grotesque and macabre, and his unique visions stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page. While Mr. Ellis is most known for his work in the realm of comics, he is also a very talented novelist.
His debut novel Crooked Little Vein was a private eye story filtered through the meat grinder of underground fetish culture, however, while endlessly fun and entertaining, it left something to be desired. Crooked Little Vein showed readers that Ellis can function beautifully without the visual support of comics, but it was a little too much, a little too immature, and a little too “shocking.” If you read his debut and were lukewarm to it like I was, don’t let that scare you away from Ellis’ latest novel, Gun Machine.
Gun Machine marks a new era in the career of Warren Ellis; one that will no doubt award him with a whole new demographic of readers. In his new novel Ellis tackles the police procedural with power and grace. The story revolves around Detective John Tallow who, after watching as his partner gets gunned down, stumbles upon an apartment literally filled to the brim with guns. From here Tallow is tasked with figuring out where all these weapons originate. Easy, right? Not by a long shot. As Tallow and a team of CSUs begin to process the cache of artillery they discover that each gun is linked to a previously unsolved murder, including murders twenty years old. Now Tallow must find the deranged killer who’s been stalking the streets of New York for the past two decades, but how can you find a man who gives new meaning to the word ghost?
Gun Machine is one hell of an entertaining book. Ellis’ prose sets the pace and the story barely stops to take a breathe throughout its 300 pages. What really makes this story such a great success is the level of detail Ellis gives to both his characters and his setting. The dialogue is snappy and believable and the descriptions of New York make you think Ellis has lived there all his life (which he has not, he lives England). The details pull you in; you can clearly see what the characters see which makes the story effectively chilling. The violence is brutal, but not over-the-top, the profanity is quirky and entertaining, and the characters are lovable, believable, and ingratiating.
For my money Gun Machine is a great crime story and one that should appeal to long-time fans of Warren Ellis’ work, and anyone who enjoys the genre. If you are looking for a new crime novel to kick of the year, give Gun Machine a try. And if you, after reading this, still don’t believe me, come down to Book People and find me so I can put this in your hands, explain it all to you in person and walk you to the registers.